One bonus in acquiring power forward Chris Stewart at the trade deadline might be the fact the Wild plays the St. Louis Blues three times in the final 14 games, including twice in St. Louis starting Saturday night.
Stewart still is bothered that the Blues traded him to lowly Buffalo at last year’s trade deadline.
“Anytime you get traded in this league, I think you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder and want to stick it to them every time you play them,” Stewart said. “There’s no other way to take it than personal.”
The Wild traded for Stewart on March 2 to add a big body who’s not intimidated against rugged teams, not only down the stretch, but in the playoffs if the Wild reaches them.
St. Louis, a potential first-round matchup, is one team that usually challenges the Wild physically, especially in St. Louis, where the Wild is 2-7-2 in its past 11 games and hasn’t won in regulation there since Oct. 20, 2007.
“He’s fearless. He’s fearless of anybody on the other team, and he plays the game that way,” coach Mike Yeo said of Stewart. “That’s a big thing for us. Having somebody that can hold people accountable if they’re going to try to go after one of our top players or anybody for that matter, he welcomes that kind of game.
“More importantly, he plays just a big game. This time of year, you’ve got to be ready to stand your ground, you’ve got to be ready to play physical hockey. We’ve got to be prepared to play heavy games and he’s a guy that should help us do that.”
Stewart’s physical play was on display early against Anaheim on Friday. He fought former Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner 10 seconds in to the game.
Stewart looks more comfortable with the Wild, scoring in consecutive games heading into Friday’s game. He said reads with linemates Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu “are just becoming automatic.
“This time of the year, the energy and physicality definitely gets dialed up to another level. Those are the games I thrive in best.”
A calm Wild
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has been impressed with what the Wild has accomplished the past two months (19-5-2 in the past 26 games).
“Well the goalie [Devyn Dubnyk] gave them the confidence to start the program again,” Hitchcock said Friday morning. “But there’s way more than the goalie going on. They’re a confident team in their passing, in their execution, in their positional play, in their calmness, in their resiliency. There’s just a real calmness in their game.
“They look the same every night, just keep playing, keep playing, keep playing, win. There’s no peaks and valleys in their game, there’s no highs and lows of emotions, there’s a very constant level of play and there’s a constant level of intensity and it just wears people out, and that’s why they’re winning so many games right now. They’re playing as good as anybody in the West — or quite frankly better than most.”
• Left winger Jason Zucker’s collarbone is healing properly, X-rays revealed, but Yeo said he’s still probably a month away from returning.
Yeo said it’s a possibility Zucker can come back by the end of the regular season on April 11, but “that’s coming upon us pretty quickly, so I’m not sure.” Yeo said there’s a specific three-month timeline for the bone to heal properly that must be followed.
Winger Ryan Carter, like Zucker also hurt Feb. 9, might practice Monday, Yeo said. However, defenseman Marco Scandella (upper body) is shooting pucks “fairly gingerly,” so his return remains uncertain.
• Dubnyk got a kick out of Lester McLean’s jingle, “Dooby Dooby Doo,” performed on TSN’s “Trade-Centre’’: “It’s hilarious. It’s pretty cool to have something like that about you.”